Apparently, New York Magazine didn’t get the memo. Just when Sheryl Sandberg is trying to ban the word “bossy,” the better to allow women to lean in and to fulfill their potential by becoming corporate executives, New York has offered up a series of case vignettes about Los Angeles women who leaned in and achieved extraordinary success in the entertainment business.
They, like Sandberg herself, have every right to garner as much success as they can. And yet, according to Gavin Polone, being an alpha female comes with a price.
Polone opens his article starkly:
Behind every super-successful woman in the entertainment business is a man she resents too much to fuck. This is an overstatement but one that often rings true for many of my female friends. Part of the experience of being an adult is listening to complaints by those close to you about their romantic partners. Given how many women producers, executives, talent representatives, etc., are top earners in the entertainment industry (women virtually control cable TV, for example), I find I am privy to the inner workings of many relationships where women are the breadwinners. And in so many of them, those women are aggrieved about the situation in which they find themselves.
Strikingly, these alpha females have dysfunctional marriages and relationships. In nearly all cases, the man in question is less successful, has less status and resents his wife’s success. The women are bitter and contemptuous of their slacker husbands.
Apparently, the role reversal has opened a floodgate of mutual recrimination and negative emotion. It doesn’t seem especially useful to blame either party for the absence of sexual desire.
Take the case of Lucy:
Her hard work has paid for most of their way of life, while he has pursued a speculative career as an entrepreneur. Given that she always made more than he did, I asked if she didn’t see her present state of bitterness coming. “It didn’t become a problem until we had kids,” she said. “That’s when the resentment starts. I’m in a one-down situation, sitting in an office with a breast pump trying to talk on the phone and get projects moving forward, and my tits are exploding and my ass is the size of a fry cook’s at McDonald’s, and I get home and the baby needs me and the nanny wants to tell me about every diaper change and my boss is calling and I am literally just trying to keep it all together financially and not lose my mind. He [her husband] has been following his dream to start a company because I provided him with the opportunity to build something that wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t been out there working my ass off,” she continued.
It hasn’t been much better for Sally:
She is a producer and recently divorced from a writer with whom she has children. When they initially got together, he was the more successful one. Then Sally’s career took off, and his stagnated, which undermined his self-assurance. Sally’s income increased exponentially, and her husband decided to leave his unsatisfying but well-paying writing job. “I thought it would be great for him to be at home with the baby,” she told me, “and I think we were hopeful that he would create something successful. He didn’t. My having success seemed to make him feel like he lost something in comparison. It was as though he would have been happier if we were both struggling, or if he were always doing just a little bit better than me. He started becoming pessimistic and cynical, and any success I had would become uncomfortable to share because it would make him unhappy.
Patty has done a better with her recent love, mostly because he is very successful in his own field. Thus, he never feels like her inferior. Better yet, she looks up to him.
Polone describes Patty’s relationship with her first husband:
And then, as time went on, he became resentful that I was more successful and better regarded. He became furious at my premieres because he wasn’t the center of attention. The angrier he became, the more resentful I felt about putting my resources into a relationship with someone who was angry all the time.” She thinks the problem isn’t specifically how much a man makes. “It’s more about confidence: each person’s feeling of self-worth and success. Men need to feel like men in order to make women feel like women.”
Her new boyfriend is an improvement:
Patty’s current boyfriend is very accomplished in a field that doesn’t pay as well, and she makes about three times his income. Still, she told me, “his status allows him to be supportive of my success. I am super-traditional. I like a dominant man even though I have a job and make money.
Many of these alpha females are bitter and resentful. They feel as though they are being punished for being successful. They feel unappreciated for what they are contributing to the family fortunes.
Their men do not see them as providers, as superwomen who are doing everything in their power to support their families. The men believe that their wives’ success has diminished them. They might feel trapped because they find the situation demeaning and, at the same time, they cannot afford to live the same lifestyle on their own.
Many of these women believe, perhaps correctly, that things would be better if their men showed more gratitude. And yet, a man who feels that his wife’s success diminishes him is not likely to feel very grateful.
It is also very difficult for a man to show gratitude and appreciation to a woman who holds him in contempt. How many of these women would rather have husbands who could make enough money to relieve them of the need to work so hard.
Unfortunately, powerful dominant females do not normally attract powerful dominant men. And, vice versa.
Most men who are powerful and dominant have wives who stay home and care for the children. You cannot achieve as much when your attention is divided.
When women are powerful and dominant, they need to have men who are at home caring for the children. It is not a human failing; it’s human nature.